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The utility of data – from a user perspective Professor Denise Lievesley Head of School of Social Science and Public Policy, King’s College London and.

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Presentation on theme: "The utility of data – from a user perspective Professor Denise Lievesley Head of School of Social Science and Public Policy, King’s College London and."— Presentation transcript:

1 The utility of data – from a user perspective Professor Denise Lievesley Head of School of Social Science and Public Policy, King’s College London and Chair, European Statistical Advisory Committee and Chair, Methods Committee European Social Survey

2 Themes  To discuss quality from a user perspective Context  Government  The Public Expert researchers  To introduce the role of ESAC Q2010 Helsinki 2

3 European Statistics Code of Practice 2005 PRINCIPLE 11: RELEVANCE European statistics must meet the needs of users. - Processes are in place to consult users, monitor the relevance and practical utility of existing statistics in meeting their needs, and advise on their emerging needs and priorities. – Priority needs are being met and reflected in the work programme. – User satisfaction surveys are undertaken periodically. Q2010 Helsinki 3

4 Achieving relevance (to Government) whilst ensuring independence (from Government) “The Marriage of Impartiality and Practical Utility” Paper given by Richard Alldritt and myself at the ISI in Durban, 2009

5 UN Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics Principle 1 “Official statistics provide an indispensable element in the information system of a democratic society, serving the Government, the economy and the public... To this end, official statistics that meet the test of practical utility are to be compiled and made available on an impartial basis by official statistical agencies..” 5 Q2010 Helsinki

6 Words: relevance or utility?  “Relevance” more often used than “utility”, but relevance to what? The wishes of government?  Political value more often a driver than utility  Better to focus on utility 6 Q2010 Helsinki

7 Are we too shy?  Are statistical offices so afraid of being accused of political motives that they dare not make reports useful?  Is the only answer to shy away from utility and avoid commenting on the relevance of the statistics to public debate?  Is there another solution? 7 Q2010 Helsinki

8 Impartiality – a troublesome partner?  The role of statisticians: to inform political debate and decisions without taking part to promote the collection and use of statistics for policy purposes  Fear that enhancing statistical utility will compromise impartiality  Codes of Practice should push for practical utility  Not impartial  lack of trust  low utility  Utility is dependent on impartiality 8 Q2010 Helsinki

9 An example of conflict  ONS made changes to release of statistics on foreign workers  Accused of presenting them in a way that supported anti-immigration lobbies  ONS action described as either ‘naïve or sinister’  National press attacked  Statistics Authority said no, it was ok but improvements needed. Parliament agreed. 9 Q2010 Helsinki

10 Getting the balance right - I  UK Code of Practice  Investigate and document the needs of users of official statistics, the use made of existing statistics and the types of decisions they inform.  Make users aware of how they can find the information they need.  Adopt systematic planning arrangements, including transparent priority setting, that reflect the obligation to serve the public good.  Publish information about users’ experiences of statistical services. 10 Q2010 Helsinki

11 Getting the balance right - II  Issue statistical reports separately from any other statement or comment about the figures  Consult users before making changes that affect statistics..or publications  Provide information on the quality and reliability of statistics in relation to the range of potential uses…  Prepare and disseminate commentary and analysis that aid interpretation, and provide factual information about the policy or operational context of official statistics. 11 Q2010 Helsinki

12 Inconvenient truths  Governments prefer good news stories  Bad news stories may be delayed or buried  They are often too focussed on populism  The government’s horizons are short whereas quality data take time to collect  Politicians prefer their own spin to the interpretation of the statistician 12 Q2010 Helsinki

13 Sir Gus O’Donnell (UK Cabinet Secretary) “I want [the ONS] to be boring, to put out the plain facts, and nothing but the facts, and on clear, predictable deadlines,” he said. It would then be for politicians and government press officers to interpret the figures, he added. 13 Q2010 Helsinki

14 Response of the Royal Statistical Society  It is clearly the task of official statisticians to interpret the figures in a statistical context, to facilitate understanding and avoid misunderstanding.  The Code of Practice of the UK Statistics Authority explicitly states that Official statistics, accompanied by full and frank commentary, should be readily accessible to all users and that all UK bodies that are responsible for official statistics should prepare and disseminate commentary and analysis that aid interpretation, and provide factual information about the policy or operational context of official statistics. 14 Q2010 Helsinki

15 Important aspects of building trust  Autonomy of statistics office  Statistical legislation  Existence of an independent statistical board  Development of codes of conduct  Breaches of the code identified, investigated and publicised  Appointment of head of statistics should be removed from the political process  Statistical processes should be externally audited  Audit body should report to Parliament 15 Q2010 Helsinki

16 Important aspects of building trust – the statistical environment  Media educated on the value and quality of statistics  The public are statistically literate  Data are made available for open and transparent debate  Users are involved in setting the agenda for statistics – and are seen to be 16 Q2010 Helsinki

17 Concerned about an over- emphasis on response burden  Suppliers who understand the value of data and who use it do not see it as a burden  The value of statistics to society must not just be asserted; it must be demonstrated 17 Q2010 Helsinki

18 Demonstrating the value of statistics to society “ Were a balance sheet for official statistics to be prepared, the costs would be clear enough. The benefit, or value, would however be found to be much more diffuse and harder to treat in traditional accounting terms. Given this, it is possible that the vital asset that official statistics represent is undervalued in public sector planning processes. And we observe that little systematic consideration is given to how the public value could be maximised”. (UK Statistics Commission, The Use Made of Official Statistics, 2007) 18 Q2010 Helsinki

19 Foster engagement with expert users  Even more important as there is an increasing pressure on statistical resources Prioritisation must involve discussion with users Expert users can provide methodological expertise Satisfied users help to fight for resources for statistics Partners (user groups, professional societies etc) help to build trust in the statistical system Q2010 Helsinki 19

20 Interesting conundrum Some of the national statistics offices judged to be the ‘best’ by fellow official statisticians are not viewed this way by users Q2010 Helsinki 20

21 Why?  Often the assertion of independence is viewed as arrogance  Official statisticians should balance professional confidence with humility, a willingness to learn from users and the ability to put oneself in the users’ position.  Determining fitness for purpose requires close co-operation between users and producers Q2010 Helsinki 21

22 Quality of data Currency and punctuality Relevance to policy Potential for disaggregation Coherence across sources Clarity and transparency Consistency over time and space Validity and reliability Validity and reliability Comparability through standards Accessibility and affordability Efficient use of resources 22 Q2010 Helsinki

23 Challenges  Lack of mechanisms to consult users  Fragmentation of data producers  Poor understanding of the cost to a country of not using data  Increasing use of administrative data Q2010 Helsinki 23

24 Data intermediaries  Data archivists, librarians Expertise in data supply Metadata standards Can help to produce quality documentation Organise user groups Capture information on data usage Ensure that the documentation incorporates user expertise Q2010 Helsinki 24

25 The European Statistical Advisory Committee

26 Q2010 Helsinki 26 The ESAC - History  Need for profound reform of role, mandate and composition of CEIES  November 2006 Commission proposal  11 March 2008, Adoption of Decision No 234/2008/EC on the ESAC  Inaugural meeting on June 2009

27 Q2010 Helsinki 27 The ESAC – Mandate  New Committee shall assist the EP / Council / Commission in ensuring that user requirements and the costs borne by information providers and producers are taken into account in coordinating the strategic objectives and priorities of the Community’s statistical information policy

28 Q2010 Helsinki 28 The ESAC – Tasks OPINION on Community statistical programme, in particular on its  relevance to requirements of European integration  relevance to Community activities  balance as regards priorities and resources and possibility to re-prioritise statistical work  adequacy of resources for its implementation and appropriateness to users’ needs  costs and possibilities of reducing response burden own-initiative opinions/reports on user requirements and costs borne by data providers

29 Q2010 Helsinki 29 The ESAC – Tasks (continued) ADVICE  Point out necessary new statistical activities  Advise the Commission how to improve the relevance of Community statistics to users

30 Q2010 Helsinki 30 Relations with Community institutions/other bodies At request of the EP/Council/Commission, ESAC shall deliver an opinion relating to user requirements and costs incurred by data suppliers in  development of the Community’s statistical information policy  priorities of the Community statistical programme  evaluation of existing statistics  data quality and  dissemination policy

31 Q2010 Helsinki 31 The ESAC – TOOLS  Plenary meetings  Establishment of temporary working parties  Commission of studies  Organisation of seminars For more information: /page/portal/esac/introduction

32 Q2010 Helsinki 32 The ESAC – Composition 24 members, appointed for 5 years, renewable once: 12 appointed by Commission users respondents other stakeholders 11 directly appointed by European Parliament Council Eur. Economic and Social Committee Committee of the Regions European Central Bank ESSC (2 members) Businesseurope ETUC UEAPME Eur. Data Protection Supervisor Director-General of ESTAT

33 challenges  Different mandates of group  Emphasis on response burden  Range of users  How to connect with users  Coverage of countries  Resources, resources, resources  Deciding where we add value Q2010 Helsinki 33

34 Adding value  Principle of subsidiarity (consultation on national statistics better undertaken nationally – but …  Sharing good practice across countries  Understanding needs for European data  Influencing European practice Q2010 Helsinki 34

35 Q2010 Helsinki 35 The ESAC  state of play  Set-up of 3 Temporary Working Parties on  “GDP and beyond and Stiglitz-Sen report”,  “Access to confidential data for scientific purposes”  “Quality”


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